By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni
Bulawayo Vendors and Vendors Association (BVTA) and various Bulawayo based vendors associations working in partnership with Transparency International Zimbabwe have established a Vendors and Traders Anti-Corruption and Coordination Task Force to help raise awareness on corruption and help to coordinate and disseminate information among members of associations. The platform seeks to play a watch dog role and be a whistle blower to any corrupt activities that occur in trading and vending areas. Vendors and traders lamented corrupt practices by some law enforcement agents who solicit for bribes and sometimes confiscate their wares and disappear before reaching the warehouses. More alarming were revelations that women bear the brunt of sexual harassment from some errant law enforcements agents who demand sex in order to let them free.
The idea was proposed at an Informal Sector Governance workshop held at Transparency International Zimbabwe, Bulawayo office. The workshop was meant to assist Vendors and Informal traders understand how corruption occurs in the informal sector; understand the personal and cooperate rights in criminal and civil liability of involvement in corruption and to develop strategies on how to reduce corruption.
Transparency International Zimbabwe says that Zimbabwe scored 21 points out of 100 on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index and the country is ranked 150 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries. It must be noted that the Corruption Perception Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be and not the informal sector, however the data provided mirrors the informal sector as some services rendered to the informal sector are from various government arms hence the perception that illicit dealings are rampant in the informal sector.
Vendors also highlighted a number of challenges they face in the industry among them lack of support on lines of credit to finance their small businesses as banks and micro- financiers demand collateral. Vendors were encouraged to pursue internal lending and savings, establish group bank accounts, pilot ideas such as Grameen Bank by Mohamoud Yunis. Informal traders called for review of legislation that governs National Social Security to consider schemes that cater for vendors as they are now part of the huge economy sector. Estimates from the government have shown that in 2013 the Informal sector was accounting for $7 billion dollars and against $4billion national budget.
Speaking at the same workshop during a breakaway session Debra Mukasa an official from Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association urged associations to advocate for the formalization of the informal sector in order to be orderly and organized so as to access loans and be recognized by the government. “Formalizing the informal traders will help us to be recognized by the government and also help us to lobby the government to introduce social security schemes for us vendors” she said. “When we grow old we do have other means of survival but if the government allows us to make small contributions to NSSA, it will cushion us and our families” she added
Mr Dumisani Ncube from Bulawayo Traders Association urged informal traders to consider acquiring pieces of land as associations and construct buildings that they can sublet and the returns be used for social security schemes.
Informal Traders and Vendors Association committed to work closely with Transparency International Zimbabwe in fighting corruption and promotion of their rights. Transparency International Zimbabwe pledged to provide legal services and assist in coordinating the informal traders and vendors associations.
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